I apologize for being absent from this blog lately. In a complete reversal from this time last year, I've been job-hunting rather than writing about my travels.
I want to finish posting about my trip to Kauai, though, because Aaron and I are going to Italy very soon! I know I'll want to post yummy photos of pizza and pasta and gelato — trust me, there will be a lot of them — once we return, so I'll do my best to wrap up Kauai before we leave in order to "make room" for Italy.
Although, who am I kidding? There's always room for gelato.
Aaron and I kicked off our first full day on Kauai with an incredible view.
Make that more than an hour's worth of incredible views.
We figured the best way to get our bearings on the Garden Island would be to tour it from the air, and what a great idea that was! A big chunk of Kauai is not accessible by motor vehicles, but we got to see all of its stunning landscapes from above.
Our knowledgeable, friendly pilot and tour guide was Bruce Coulombe, the owner (with his wife, Ellen) of Wings Over Kauai. He made us feel nice and safe as we climbed into the tiny plane — me in the co-pilot's seat and Aaron right behind me, for even weight distribution.
I got a little nervous once I saw all of the dials and gadgets up close. Those things really work, right?
Luckily, Bruce went through the pre-flight checklist with me, explaining all of the functions of various instruments as we worked through the laminated list. This guy knew what he was doing (which made one of us). Whew!
Wings Over Kauai shares a runway at the Lihue Airport with Hawaiian Airlines, so we waited for this massive airplane to take off before we could begin our taxi.
Then... we were off! I was surprised by how smooth the takeoff felt. In Australia, I rode a rickety little plane over Fraser Island and felt like the whole thing could fall apart at any moment. This plane was a dream in comparison.
Aaron chose to sit in the back so he could have an unobstructed view of the island for photos. You'll see that some of my pictures feature parts of the plane, but that was fine by me. I preferred to be up front, where all the action took place.
Bruce allowed us to swing open the window once we got up to the proper elevation, which gave both of us an even better view. The wind blew pretty viciously into Aaron's face, though, while I was unaffected in the front! Consequently, we only opened the window for certain photo ops.
Our headsets allowed Bruce to tell us all about the island that he has called home for 16 years. Soothing Hawaiian music played softly in the background as he described the various landscapes, beaches, waterfalls and other points of interest, like expansive coffee farms and famous places that have appeared in movies.
Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, was particularly impressive from above.
But my favorite sight of all was the breathtaking Na Pali Coast. It has been featured in everything from Jurassic Park to Nicki Minaj's "Starships" video (random!), and it's just stunning in person.
Spoiler alert: Later in our trip, Aaron and I took a boat tour of the Na Pali Coast, but it did not go into the cool cave that this boat is going into. I would like a do-over!
The only scary part of the plane ride was when we flew through some heavy fog and got battered with fat raindrops. It was only for a few minutes, though, and we were rewarded with a magical full rainbow afterward.
Since the previous few days had been particularly rainy, we saw plenty of waterfalls. According to Bruce, these ones aren't always there.
This one is always there — Wailua Falls. Gorgeous.
While it wasn't as action-packed as our ATV tour, I really enjoyed our time with Wings Over Kauai and recommend it as a relatively affordable option ($125/person) for touring Kauai from above.
It felt very safe and peaceful. I even felt sleepy near the end, thanks to the gentle Hawaiian music and the subtle vibrations of the plane!
If Aaron and I had bigger budgets and could do it again, though, we would opt for a helicopter tour. We heard other vacationers raving about their helicopter adventures and we were jealous that they got to land at the same waterfall that's shown at the beginning of Jurassic Park! Some helicopters even fly sans doors for the benefit of avid photographers.
That said, not everyone can afford a plane tour, and I'm grateful we could and did. We'll just have to add a helicopter ride to our bucket list. : )